People with chronic low back pain may want to try taking to the yoga mat to relieve their symptoms, a small new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of York in the United Kingdom found that back pain sufferers who participated in a group yoga program for 12 weeks had fewer medical costs and fewer missed days from work, compared with people who didn't participate in the yoga program.
"We welcome the fact that not only has yoga been found to help people manage their back pain, but that it is also cost effective, and results in fewer sick days," Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, which funded the study, said in a statement. "It is another option for people who are struggling to manage their condition, and one that encourages the move to self-management."
The Spine journal study included more than 300 people who experienced recurring back pain; half of them were assigned to the 12-week yoga program and also received standard medical care, while the other half only received standard medical care for their pain. (Standard medical care could mean anything from seeing a physiotherapist, to receiving prescription painkillers.)
The researchers found that each person was able to participate in the yoga intervention at a cost of less than 300 pounds ($472 in U.S. dollars). And people who participated in the yoga program also took fewer sick days from work than people who only received the standard care.
Yoga has been shown in past studies to aid in back pain relief. Researchers found that yoga classes or stretching classes helped people with chronic low back pain to manage their pain, compared with just using a "self-care" book, according to a 2011 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
And "several other studies -- all smaller than ours -- have found that Iyengar yoga and general Hatha yoga are helpful for persons with back pain," study researcher Karen Sherman, Ph.D., of the Group Health Research Institute, earlier told HuffPost. "My guess is that any therapeutically-oriented style of yoga could be helpful to people with chronic back pain."
For more ways yoga could improve health, click through the slideshow:
Mindfulness meditation could help doctors provide better care to their patients, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers found. When doctors underwent mindfulness meditation training, they listened better and were less judgmental at home and at work, according to the Academic Medicine study.
Practicing mindfulness meditation exercises could help people with the painful condition to decrease their stress and fatigue levels, according to a study from Oslo's Diakonhjemmet Hospital. In that study, published in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, the goal of the mindfulness meditation exercises was to help people concentrate on their own thoughts, experiences and pain in the moment, without actively trying to avoid them or judge them. The researchers found that people who did the exercises had lower stress and fatigue measurements than people who didn't partake in the meditation.
Practicing mindfulness meditation could help decrease feelings of loneliness in the elderly. The small study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity, showed that undergoing an eight-week mindfulness meditation training program, as well as doing meditation exercises at home, was linked with lower feelings of loneliness and a reduction in the expression of genes known to be linked with inflammation. This finding is important because, among the elderly, loneliness is known to increase the risk for a number of other health problems -- including heart risks and even a premature death.
Practicing yoga for eight weeks helped stroke survivors to improve their balance in a study published in the journal Stroke. Improving balance among stroke patients is important for reducing the risk of falls. People who had balance problems, or feelings of dizziness and/or spinning, were five times more likely to fall than those without balance issues, according to an earlier 2003 study in Stroke. And in other research, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine this year and conducted by the same researchers as the balance study, they found that yoga helped stroke survivors to be more flexible, be stronger, and have more endurance and strength.
It's not just people with an ailment who can benefit from yoga -- people caring for the sick can be helped, too. A study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that caregivers who participate in meditation have decreased symptoms of depression and even a decrease in cellular aging from stress.
The Washoe County Sheriff's Office in Reno, Nevada, is offering yoga to female prisoners to help them with anger and stress issues, Fox Reno reported. The twice-a-month classes are taught by volunteers, and are part of the Alternatives to Incarceration Unit's Women's Empowerment Program, according to Fox Reno.
Meditation could be the key to minimizing stress for busy teachers, according to a study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. The findings, published in the journal Emotion, showed that undergoing eight weeks of meditation helped to lower anxiety and depression, also, in the teachers, Everyday Health reported.